Tottenham Hotspur FC manager Martin Jol is optimistic his side will advance to the UEFA Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday despite injury concerns before the visit of SC Braga.
The London club have a 3-2 lead to protect in the Round of 16 second leg and low confidence at the turn of the year has been boosted by 20 goals in six unbeaten games, five of them wins, in all competitions. As well as their UEFA Cup run, Tottenham are a point off sixth in England and have every chance of reaching the FA Cup semi-finals. With matters of form resolved, fitness seems to be the only barrier to success, with England trio Paul Robinson, Ledley King and Jermaine Jenas all sidelined. Anthony Gardner had filled in for King in defence but now has been ruled out for six weeks with a leg fracture.
Jol is looking on the bright side, however. "We have a versatile squad, Pascal Chimbonda and Didier Zokora can both play in the centre and, if necessary, we also have Tom Huddlestone. Gardner is a blow but it's also a challenge because we have players who can play in one or two positions." Another positive is that Robbie Keane is fit again after an ankle injury in Braga six days ago caused him to miss the FA Cup quarter-final thriller on Sunday that saw Tottenham draw 3-3 at Chelsea FC.
Tottenham's performance in Portugal underlined their attacking verve with a last-gasp winner from Keane, despite his problem ankle. "That [2-2] would still have been a good score in an away leg in Europe but there was only one winner," Jol said. In contrast, Braga coach Jorge Costa, who had a brief spell in London with Charlton Athletic FC, is mindful of the task facing the team ranked fourth in Portugal. "We have a tremendous job ahead of us, but we are here as representatives of a city and a country, so we are going to give the best out of us. It is not an impossible mission.
"We learned a lesson in the first leg and I hope we can show that in London”, said the 35-year-old, who will look to all the experience learned as a UEFA Champions League winner with FC Porto. "We must make them nervous. If we do that we may have a chance." Like Tottenham, Braga will miss key injured players in the shape of Diego, Vandinho and Pedro Costa. The good news is the return of full-backs Carlos Fernandes and Luís Filipe, and the experienced forward João Pinto, after all sat out Sunday's 0-0 Liga draw against SC Beira-Mar.
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